"Our weapon is our nakedness": Public nudity as a method to bring about social change

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Burton, Laura
Washburn University
Issue Date
December 2003
Alternative Title
Legends holds that in the early eleventh century Lady Godiva was unhappy with her husband's treatment of peasants. The Lady wanted her husband to lower taxes and increase appreciation of the arts and music, actions that were not common in the time period, and her tendency to demand political change was considered highly unorthodox. Nevertheless, she was determined, and told him that she would ride naked through the streets of the city if he complied with her requests. Her husband agreed, and Lady Godiva became the first known individual to use public nudity for political gain. Today, women removing their clothes in order to improve their conditions are a clear and present force. The use of nudity as a form of protest is an ancient method of obtaining political power that has gained significant popularity in recent years. Although the method is used more frequently in industrialized nations,its ancient roots and true power is typically in underdeveloped nations, where traditional ideas about women still abound. In a world where the "haves" and the "have-nots" are becoming increasingly distant from each other, a study of nude protests provides an interesting lens through which to view different cultures and economic systems. In order to best analyze the different uses of nude protesting we will look at two case studies. The first study will look at the use of nudity to bring about social change in the impoverished nation of Nigeria. The second will analyze the "Baring Witness" project intended to protest the United States led war in Iraq.